Like everywhere in the world, the coffee culture is slowly gaining ground in South Korea’s Seoul along with a new Starbucks springing up in its nooks and crannies almost every month. But, the city hasn’t forgotten its traditional tea house culture where you will still find people warming up during the winter days or simply whiling away time, in the good ol’ fashion. By Shubhanjana Das
1. Shin Old Tea House
The Insa-dong district and its pedestrian main street is known as much for its hustle-bustle as for the Korean eateries and traditional teahouses. It is here that you will find the Shin Old Tea House, one of Seoul’s treasured destinations that have successfully managed to embrace the old even in contemporary times. The floor seating, the wooden interiors, and the warm vibe is enough to help you feel grounded to your roots as you sip on what is sure to be some of the best teas you have tried.
2. Tteuran Teahouse
It is hard to walk past this teahouse, a true abode of tranquillity in the heart of Seoul. While its claim to fame may have been the 2009 movie Cafe Seoul, its authenticity and honesty to the Korean culture is humbling. Opened as recently as 2009, the owner makes the Korean snack foods herself. As for the teas, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better brew anywhere else in the city.
Located in Samcheongdong, the minute you step in barefoot at Gahdawang, a certain sense of calm and composedness will surround and wrap you in itself. Made in a horse-shoe shaped structure to resemble the Korean alphabet “ㄷ”, the architecture is just as awe-striking as the teas served here. Walk through the stairway entrance into an enrapturing ambience heightened by the roof tiles and the traditional earthenware pots. You’ll find grilled garaetteok (rice cakes) and hangwa, traditional Korean confectioneries on the menu. Should you be inspired by the ambience of Gahwadang, you will find coloured pencils and a small notepad for your perusal at the table itself.
4. Suyeong Sanbang
Set inside a traditional Korean-style house called a hanok, Suyeong Sanbang is as authentic and true to Korean culture as possible. Tranquil, quiet, yet brimming with character, at Suyeong Sanbang, you can easily lose track of time while holding a cup of its delicious omija, or the enviable five-flavour berry tea.
5. Moonbird Teahouse
For everyone who is not a fan of quiet, Moonbird Teahouse manages to merge the trendy and the traditional in a lovely hanok setting with scribbles on the walls oil lamps, and B&W photography. Teas are always served in large cups and come with Korean snacks that are worth binging on.